Monday, May 30, 2011

Political "Reviews" Moving to the Forefront

The new Conservative majority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems to be moving forward briskly with multiple policy reviews in areas relating to military and civilian space activities.
Robert Fonberg.

There are at least three.

First up is a review of the 2008 Conservative Party Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) according to the May 29th, 2011 article on "David Pugliese's Defence Watch" titled "Robert Fonberg To Head Review of Canada First Defence Strategy? What Might Be Dumped from the CFDS?"

The article states that Deputy Minister of National Defence, Robert Fonberg could be preparing to head a review of the CFDS, beginning at the end of June. The expected focus will be on how CFDS has not been funded appropriately until now and how the Department of National Defence (DND) should proceed in the future.

As outlined in my January 16th, 2011 post "Canada's Military Space Policy: Part 4, Funding an Appropriate Force" the CFDS mandates the capability to undertake multiple missions, either separately or together plus the procurement of a variety of big ticket new equipment including transport aircraft, helicopters, fighter planes, at least one new icebreaker and other surface combat vessels.

These purchases requires command, control and situational awareness capabilities of a type provided by satellites like RADARSAT, RADARSAT 2, the follow-on RADARSAT Constellation project and the DND Surveillance of Space (Sapphire) project, which is part of the Canadian Space Surveillance System (CSSS).

Col Andre Dupuis.
Because of the large amounts of money involved (an estimated $490 billion CDN over the 20 year program) and the ambiguity of components of the plan, there has been quite a bit of internal lobbying from DND, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and others to add specific programs to the CFDS mix including additional fast response capabilities (such as unmanned aerial vehicles) and maybe even a micro-sat launch capability.

This seems to have been part of the rationale for the November 2010 announcement by Colonel AndrΓ© Dupuis, the Director of the DND Directorate of Space Development (DSpaceD) that DND was intending to release an "updated" but not substantially changed Canadian military space policy early in 2011 as discussed in the November 22nd, 2010 Spaceref.ca article "Canadian Military Space Policy to be Released in Early New Year."

Of course, that review still hasn't been released and has likely been superseded by this new review. Hopefully the space component of the CFDS, which is arguably the least expensive and most useful bang for the buck will be retained once this new review has run it's course.

The second, official review is the upcoming civilian/ military "aviation" review.as reported in the March 22nd, 2010 Spaceref.ca article "Harper Government to Review Aerospace Policy and Programs" which is likely going to be included as part of the upcoming Federal budget. This review would supersede the September 2008 long term space plan (LTSP) that Steve MacLean was tasked with when he became president of the CSA. 

Steve MacLean & then Industry Minister Jim Prentice in March 2008.
As discussed in my March 28th, 2011 blog post "The Difference Between Aviation and Space" there is much concern in the space systems industry over being lumped together with the larger "aerospace" industry which, in Canada at least, is mostly about airplanes and focused on different issues.

But, as outlined in the March 2nd, 2011 Spaceref.ca article "Top Space Focused Companies Critical of Federal Research and Development Funding," four of Canada's ten largest space companies have been publicly critical of the federal governments implementation of research and development (R&D) funding as outlined in the governments Science and Technology strategy "Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage."

So maybe this new aerospace review is timely, after all. 

Of course, the Federal science and technology strategy is the subject of another review, our third under discussion today which is review of Federal Support to Research and Development. The findings of this review are also expected to be released sometime over the next year.

Unless they're not.

Normally after an election, there is a broad consensus on policy directions and initiative expected to be undertaken by the new government, but that doesn't seem to be what's happening this time.

Perhaps, what we really need is to review all these reviews, in order to see how they fit together and what they're really being used for. 

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